Canadian court says reporter must give police material
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday a Vice Media reporter must give Canada’s national police force material he gathered for stories about an accused terrorist in a case that pitted press freedoms against the investigative powers of police.
The high court said in a 9-0 decision Friday the state’s interest in prosecuting crimes outweighed the media’s right to privacy in gathering the news.
Vice Media said the ruling made it a “dark day for press freedom.”
Organizations representing Canadian journalists also decried the decision as setback that imperils their work.
In 2014, reporter Ben Makuch wrote three articles about the involvement of Farah Mohamed Shirdon, formerly of Calgary, with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Shirdon had left Canada for Turkey in March of that year. A month later, he appeared in an ISIL propaganda video that turned up on the internet. He tore up his Canadian passport, threw it into a fire and said, “With help from Allah, we are coming to slaughter you.”
Their exchanges in text-messaging service were crucial to the articles.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2015 directed Vice Media and Makuch to provide documents and data relating to communications with Shirdon.
Makuch tweeted: “I am profoundly disappointed in today’s ruling, not just as an appellant in this case or a reporter, but as a citizen of Canada.”
The Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression also called the ruling deeply disappointing.
“It creates a chill for anyone who wants to speak truth to power or expose government wrongdoing,” said CAJ president and CJFE board member Karyn Pugliese. “The country’s highest court erred significantly in today’s decision.”